Analysis

How children can still get into STEM during lockdown

27th May 2020
Alex Lynn

In almost all of walks of life, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, STEM has an influence on what we do, whether that be taking medicine, using a smartphone, travelling from A to B, or making sense of numbers and graphs — something we’re all having to appreciate more right now.

By Caitlin Purvis

Known simply as STEM, these academic disciplines are taught to children through school curriculums and are then used in practice by adults who choose to go down one of the four routes for their career.

But, with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, schools remain shut to most children, leaving parents to become substitute STEM teachers without the training. Despite the pause button being pressed on normality, there’s still a lot that can be done to help children learn these key skills. 

With gaps in the industry already a potential headache for employers, it’s never been more important for children to learn, develop and ultimately help plug the gaps that currently exist in the industry. Here, we highlight what can be done, how to do it, and celebrate those who’ve gone the extra mile to keep STEM at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Plenty of play time

It may come as a surprise to many parents across the UK that children playing with STEM toys can, without even knowing it, strengthen their neurological development and develop a much better understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In such a digital and technologically advanced age, toys such as robots and computers can keep children entertained for hours. At the same time, parents will see that they are happy and learning.

Physically building a robot and learning code to train a digital robot are great ways to incorporate STEM and play. Don’t want your children sitting at a computer all day? Toy diggers are a great way to teach them more about engineering.

Children can thrive from being the one to decide how they get creative, and from that freedom they benefit in many ways through play time. This is backed up by a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who stated: “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children.”

Keeping children on track

During lockdown we’ve seen everything from fast food chains sharing recipes for popular menu items to the UK government explaining how to make face masks from old t-shirts.

The world of STEM has been no different, with the likes of Network Rail and Glasgow-based IT consultancy firm, CGI, putting together learning packs for children.

Formed around trains and engineering, Network Rail’s pack contains tasks and activities for ages between five and 16. With the majority of their staff classed as critical workers by the government the resources come in very handy for parents who are juggling home-schooling and work. But, not just that, it could well inspire the children of those in the rail industry to follow in their footsteps and climb the STEM career ladder.

Up in Glasgow, CGI launched their ‘STEM from Home’ activities to play their part in easing the pain of lockdown. Using a weekly resource pack aimed at children between the ages of six and 14, the activities focus on robotics, coding, the environment, sport, and healthy living. Wanting as many children as possible to get into STEM, enough resources were created to last 12 weeks, with more in the pipeline. It could be the difference between children getting into the industry or choosing a different path.

Apprenticeship applause

One of the common routes into STEM is via an apprenticeship, with the car industry a good example of how young people can go straight into workplace once they’ve finished further or higher education. With engineering playing such a vital role in the building of cars and the maintenance of them, it’s important that young people continue to choose this route as a career choice.

The latest rising star in the car industry is Rob Pallent Bright, a Lookers apprentice based at Lookers Ford Braintree. Playing a pivotal role in the servicing of cars like the Ford Kuga Hybrid, Rob’s hard work and dedication paid off as he picked up two major apprentice gongs in the same week, just five months ago.

Those awards were the prestigious Ford Apprentice of the Year for 2019 and the overall winner prize at the WorldSkills 2019 finals in the Automotive Technology category. It’s evidence that success can be achieved by young people in STEM. With great opportunities being created through apprenticeships, initiatives that are helping us during lockdown, and education when the schools re-open, the possibilities for children and young people are endless, and ones that could help fill industry gaps for years to come.

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